Saturday, January 28, 2012

A "Visa Run" to Oman, Insha'Allah.

Okay, so yesterday was a WHOLE new experience for this rookie world-traveler.

The kids and I are not able to get our residence visas until Mark's and my marriage license is attested (I don't even know what that word means .. I think it means "validated" in some sort of fancy way).  So, while that is in process (which is a very "Dubai" way of doing things .. "Insha'Allah" <--more on that word later) our tourist visa is coming close to expiring.  (It lasts 30 days).  In order to be legally here in the UAE, we need to do a "visa run" to Oman, a bordering country out here, to exit the UAE and then re-enter to get a whole new 30 day tourist visa.  (I THINK I'm saying that right).

So, yesterday was our day ..

We set out on the road to Oman, thinking it would be about 3 hours round-trip to get this done.  We brought snacks, sippies, movies, games, toys etc.  With 3 kids under 6, our car was PACKED. 

OH .. I need to mention that Mark's passport is in the hands of the "processors" so he cannot leave the country of UAE.  He is getting a visa for his work in China.  He would come with us to the border, but that was as far as he could go.  Yeah.

Anyways .. the drive was actually quite nice on the way there .. I took pictures:

 The "reality" of the desert showed up about 10-15 miles out of town.
We would see camels in the sand like you'd see cows in fields on road trips in the USA.  (Sorry, I couldn't get a pic of the camels).

 It was fun to see mountains in the distance.

The border station.

 This is the text I received when we left the UAE, warning me of roaming charges I assume.


 I really love this picture.  It reminds me of Colorado, minus the snow caps.

 These goats were everywhere!! 

 The UAE flag painted on the mountains behind the shops.

 Sand, sand and more sand!

 I cropped this picture to try and zoom in on the cars at the top of this sand dune .. they are "dune bashing" .. It sounds SOO fun!  I can't wait to go!! We watched a car zoom from the very top to the very bottom.  CRAZY! 

dune buggies.  FUN!

Okay .. that was the good part .. the scenery.  I have to tell you that the experience of doing a "visa run" is NOT fun, and I hope to never have to do it again!!  The process is very involved.  A great person documented a step-by-step process, and without this information, I think the kids and I might still be in Oman!!  Click here for the "how to's" of doing a visa run to Oman from Dubai.  (Seriously, click the link and browse through it for a sec, it'll make the rest of the blog easier to understand).  :)

We dropped Mark at the public library in Hatta, UAE.   From there it was "solo-mio" .. with the 3 kids, on the way to do steps 9 through 19 of the 19 listed in the link. 

At the first stop, where we got our exit stamp, we had a hiccup .. 

The building you go in is RIGHT next to the highway and Max was having a "2-year-old moment" .. totally fighting the stroller, wearing shoes, me, everything.  So I held him as best as I could, and he went barefoot.  In the line, people were commenting on how "cute" he was .. and how I would appreciate these moments later .. blah blah blah .. I wasn't feelin' it. I was just so grateful that the girls were so well behaved at that moment!!   ANYWAYS .. through the headache of standing in that line with Max being two, we got our exit stamps and headed back to the car.  I was still wrestling Max to find the key in my purse and .. NO.  KEYS.         Dig, dig, dig.  nope.     Dump, dig, dig .. no keys.

no car keys. 

I couldn't find my keys. 


I had to keep the kids close because of the busy street (no sidewalks or barriers to keep them from running in the street - just a yellow line) and cars were coming and going like crazy.  I started going up to random strangers asking them if they had seen my keys anywhere.  (There were several expats there doing the same thing we were, so I wasn't alone, just freaking out a bit looking for the keys).  A group of people joined the hunt and we were looking everywhere!!  Through the windows in the car, in my purse (I had another person look through my purse to see if they could find them) under cars, at the station, EVERYWHERE.  no luck.  One lady offered to keep an eye on the kids while I hunted under cars, etc.  She looked nice .. so I trusted her .. I had no choice, and Max was all over the place.

I called Mark just to tell him .. even though there was literally NOTHING he could do.  We brainstormed options and thought we'd have to get a locksmith, or break a window, or just get a cab back to the UAE .. I had our passports, money, and the kids, we were ok .. just WOW not fun.  So Mark just said, "okay .. is there ANYTHING I can do?" and I just said .. "no, just pray."  He said, "okay"  and we hung up.  

I decided to give the purse ONE more check, even though I had already gone through it several times, dumped it, had another person look through it and everything.  I gave it one more try .. and guess what I found?  The keys. 

Did you catch the miracle?  I sure did.  I'm teary just writing about it. 

Deep breath .. on to the next step.  
Okay ONE MORE deep breath, now I can move on... :)

When we arrived at the next stop, we saw several of the people that were trying to help us find our keys.  We heard a lot of "Oh GOOD!  I'm so glad to see you here!" from people.   Community just surprises me in times like that .. good, helpful, kind people exist .. and I'm so grateful for them!  At that stop there was also a convenience shop with ice cream!  yay!  A small treat to reward the kids for going through this with me. God spoils me, He really does.  He gave us good people AND ice cream!

This stop involved paperwork and paying for our entry/exit visa in Oman .. Max was better this time in his stroller with ice cream in hand.  I filled out paperwork, stood in line, paid 800 dihram (about $225) and got our entry/exit visas.  Cross that off the list.  Next stop:  New UAE tourist visa.

I must have heard, "Are we there yet?" more in this trip than in all trips we've had in the past combined.  Love it. ish.

I let Max run, squeal and make me look like a bad parent in the next facility.  I was over it, and he needed to run.  We stood in that line while he ran and laughed and played (it was actually pretty cute, and people smiled and laughed at him .. so I wasn't too stressed about him).  We got that beautiful UAE 30 day tourist visa stamp and then we were DONE.  

Off to Hatta to pick up Mark, and then head back home ...  yes, home, whether I'm ready to call it that or not.  :)

I'm learning that living here means that everything takes time .. a lot more time than I'm used to, and everything is a process.  Nothing really goes smoothly.  We run into a lot of "hiccups" while trying to make things happen, but they do happen, it just takes time.  The term out here is "Insha'Allah" .. which sounds a lot like "enchilada" minus the "da" at the end ..  It means "God Willing" ... everything comes with an "Insha'Allah" at the end of it out here.  EVERYTHING.  

We are moving into our villa .. Insha'Allah
We are getting our funiture delivered .. Insha'Allah
We will be settled in our new home .. Insha'Allah .. 
We will get our residence visas .. Insha'Allah. 

Everything will get done .. Insha'Allah.

Our trip took twice as long as we expected .. I think it was 6 hours total. 

Soo .. to end on a funny note .. Brooke had to go potty BAD on the way home .. we had tried to go at the second stop, (ice cream stop) but the bathrooms were DISGUSTING and according to Brooke, they "smelled really REALLY bad!" So she decided to hold it.  It wasn't until after we picked up Mark and we had been in the car for about 20 minutes that Brooke chimed in with her, "Mommy, now I have to go potty really, REALLY bad!"  So we found what looked like a "normal" gas station .. it was a Shell station .. and well, we all know that gas stations are lacking in clean facilities .. but "you gotta do what ya gotta do" .. so we stopped in.  We opened the door to the bathroom, and this is what we saw: 

 yeah, she held it. 

Till next time,  Insha'Allah ..

Friday, January 27, 2012

random post .. with pictures.

This is a bunch of random pictures from the past 2 weeks .. enjoy!

 This bear was in a random parade that we saw while killing time at the mall near our hotel/apartment.

 Did the alter the name of the movie on the Happy Meals in the USA too? 

 A little "Just Dance Kids" on the Wii in our temp housing

(the kids are posing with the bear .. SOOO FUN TO SEE!)
 abaya store

 fun at the beach at dusk
(we went for a picnic dinner)

 sharing toys with friends at the beach

 pretty little girl, all dressed up, walking on the beach

 Paige had stepped on a toy and sliced her foot when they first stared playing, so Daddy made her a band-aid.  :)  (her cut wasn't deep, just OWWY)

 Paige found a baby crab in the sand (in the shovel) .. we do this on our family trip to NC every year .. she was SOOO excited to find it!

Max filling his bucket.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth 10 zillion times .. he LOVES the beach! 

 Max, its time to go!!!  (He doesn't care that it's DARK .. he's still shoveling and playing)

 This is what the street looks like after it rains .. I'm thinking the drainage systems aren't all that great.

 The fam (minus me) sitting on the wall at the end of the Palm Jumeriah.  

 We went to the Marina Mall on Saturday, this is what you see when you're there.

 I begged them not to get soaked. 

 Max, of course, got soaked.  
We bought him a new outfit at the mall.

 Self portrait w/ the iPhone at Marina Mall.

 carrousel ride w/ the kids .. that thing spins .. not so fun for Momma. 

Sweet Max does a lot of this these days.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Parent Enrichment - Brooke's class

So today I got to participate in "Parental Enrichment Week" in Brooke's class!  I arrived (Max in tow) at 9 a.m. and got to do a scavenger hunt around the school.  This was a great activity for me in particular, because I have NO idea where things are in the school yet! It was a great learning experience!

Here are the pictures:

 There's Brooke, first scavenger hunt clue in hand .. 

 Vera is a friend from class, she speaks mostly German.  She joined Brooke and me on our hunt.

 First clue brought us here!  To the KG2 (kindergarten) class with a giraffe out front!

 The next clue brought us out to the playground .. this is only half of it .. it's AWESOME .. outside, but COVERED.  That will be nice in the heat. 

 Max giving a cheesy grin.  

 back at class .. all 12 clues gathered .. and there's a PUZZLE on the back!  

 glueing the pieces together .. 

It's a class picture!!  yay!

Just like Paige, I am SOO proud of Brooke!!  I have been in awe of how brave that she has been going into a brand new school with all new friends, new teachers, new cultures ... soo much to absorb for just a little one, and she's done beautifully.  Brooke does miss her buddies from back home.  It has been a pretty big adjustment for her to go to school every day vs. just 2 days a week back in Colorado.  The teachers said that she's "slowly coming out of her shell" which is good .. they were delighted to see her smiling so much today.  I think the timing of Parent Enrichment is just PERFECT for our family.  The girls had a week to feel things out on their own, and then I got to come learn about their classrooms from them .. I'm so grateful for these little blessings.  SO GRATEFUL.  It'll be nice to see how she does during week 3!

Have a good day!  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Parent Enrichment Week

This week at DAA (Dubai American Academy, the girls' school) is "Parent Enrichment Week."  This includes "United Nations Day"  that was yesterday.

Today was my day to go participate in a writing exercise in Paige's class.  After some instructions from Ms. Penny about encouraging the kids to write and not worry about spelling mistakes, here is what we did:

 First, Paige wrote her "story"

 Next, she read it to me.  (It says, "Camels live in the desert.  They live in the desert for 8 days." It has a picture of a camel on top).

 Paige did both sides of her sheet.  The other side is a picture of her and Mark.  She is a princess and he is a prince.  Her writing says, "I have a family.  They are fun." 
(Can you just see the PRIDE in her face?)

 Then Paige shared her writing with her class.  (The class normally has 18 students.  We are broken into smaller groups for Parent Enrichment activities).

I can't say enough how very proud I am of her.  Paige has really jumped in, made friends, and has been REALLY fun to watch as she learns to READ!  She was reading a little bit back home, but it seems like overnight she just caught on and has been running strong with it.  And her WRITING!!!  I really didn't know that she could write a story on her own like that.  I'm not surprised, just really, really PROUD of her.  The quality of her education out here has been a pleasant surprise.  We honestly didn't know what to expect, and so far, so very, very good.  It was fun to get a "hands on" glimpse today.  I'm looking forward to more opportunities like this in the future as soon as I get some options with Max.

Speaking of ..

If you're wondering what Max was doing while I participated, here's a picture.  He's (seriously) playing Angry Birds on my iPhone.

Tomorrow I (with Max) get to go do a scavenger hunt with Brooke's class.  I'm excited!  I'll make sure I take pictures of that, too!  

Thanks so much for checkin' in .. it feels so good to have you with us on this journey! 

Bless YOU today!